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I won the Nobel Peace prize for reconciling Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. I’m presently on a ship in the Mediterranean trying to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza, but the Israelis won’t let me. What should I do?
Baffled from Belfast
Load your cargo onto camels and head for Kyrgyzstan. They need it more there.
I am prime minister of a Muslim country with 75 million citizens. Our empire once ruled the Muslim world and a great deal besides, and we very much would like to do so again. Recently I have asserted our leadership of Muslim causes, for example, breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza. What should I do next?
Anxious in Ankara
Your problem is that the sort of rhetoric that plays well with the local audience makes you sound like an evil clown in the United States. Whatever Israeli commandos did on the Mavi Marvara, it’s not a “war crime” or an act of “state terrorism,” as your government proclaims. You need to work on your image in order to avoid the impression that your country is crawling with violence-prone barbarians with a paranoid chip on their collective shoulder. The world still remembers the murder of perhaps three million Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christians between 1914 and 1925, not to mention the killing of as many as 40,000 Kurds by Turkish security forces during the 1980s and 1990s.
It doesn’t help when two groups of ethnic Turks, the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, slaughter each other. When you expostulate about Gaza but say nothing about massacres in Kyrgyzstan, your credibility goes down the drain. It betrays a narrowly political motivation, rather than religious or even national concern. My advice: Announce that you will go to Kyrgyzstan to mediate between the warring ethnic groups. Stay there as long as possible.
I’m the legitimate, internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people and the prospective president of a future Palestinian state, but I get no respect. My security people got knee-capped and pushed off rooftops in Gaza when Hamas took over in 2007. Now even the Americans are talking about lifting the embargo on Gaza – not to mention the Europeans – which would make Hamas look like a legitimate representative of the Palestinians and leave me in the cold. What should I do?
Rattled in Ramallah
You’re suffering from a martyr gap with the competition. Hamas gets respect because its supporters are happy to commit suicide. As they keep saying, “You love life; we love death.” The Turks sent a boat full of prospective martyrs eager to die at the hands of the Israelis, and managed to produce nine corpses. Hamas rocket attacks on Israel are designed to draw Israeli counter-attacks which produce corpses, civilian or not. The horror evoked by suicide hurts Western morale more than the fear of terrorism. Muslims perpetrated 1,944 suicide attacks between 2001 and 2008, not counting the efforts of Hamas, Hezbollah, and others to provoke Israel into counter-attacks that claim civilian lives as collateral damage. The West is founded on the notion of redemption, that is, the hope that in every human being there exists some inclination towards the good. Suicide is a real conversation-stopper. The West cringes in horror at thought that a combatant culture can field an arbitrarily large number of suicides.
All the evidence in the world that the prospective shahids on the Mavi Marmara intended to die won’t cure the queasiness of Western stomachs. The fact of nine corpses on the deck overwhelms the sensibilities of Western liberals, no matter how they got there. Your problem is that you don’t have enough corpses to lay out for the news media.
If you don’t like how you’re being treated, ask a few of your security people to kill themselves in front of your office every morning. If they won’t do that, order them to kill some Hamas people in retaliation for all the murders of your people in Gaza. The first will get you sympathy, and the second will get you respect. If you can’t persuade your people to do either, even after all the American training and weapons they’ve received during the past few years, you’re out of options. Seek political asylum in another Muslim country – Kyrgyzstan, maybe.
I’m the prime minister of a small Jewish country in the Middle East. No matter what we do, we get blamed for brutality. We tried to handle the Gaza blockade-runners like errant hippies, and boarded the Mavi Marmara with paintball guns. We have videos proving that our soldiers acted in self-defense and nobody seems to care. We’ve captured whole shiploads of Iranian missiles headed for Gaza. The French blew up a Greenpeace ship and nobody treated them this way. What can I do to get a fair hearing in the world?
Jittery in Jerusalem
There isn’t a lot you can do, except in the United States, where most people still believe in fairness, and a lot of people think that the Biblical reasons for your country’s founding are valid. You might want to produce a brief television commercial showing some of the 7,000 Gazan patients treated each year at Israeli hospitals; the Israeli field hospital in Haiti manned by a 200-person relief team that was first on the scene after the earthquake; and other humanitarian aid provided by your country. And you might want to contrast this with footage of the effect of terrorist bombings and rocket attacks, as well as the video footage from the boarding of the Mavi Marmara. That won’t make much of a different, because American support for Israel already is at a record high.
Your success, even your existence, is an affront to most Muslims. Polls show that only a fifth of Arabs would accept a Jewish state in the Middle East under any circumstances. That is because the return of the Jewish people to Zion, not to mention their military, commercial, scientific and cultural achievements, undermines Islamic triumphalism. Muslims ask themselves: How can the Koran be God’s final revelation, if the perfidious Jews enjoy strength and riches, and their false prophets appear vindicated, while the faithful wallow in weakness and humiliation?
As for the Europeans, there isn’t anything you can do to bring them around. They have abandoned the Christian faith that created Europe in the first place and have reconciled themselves to extinction. They abhor the idea of a Jewish state, because they abhor anything that calls to mind their own Judeo-Christian foundation. And they like to think of Jews as malefactors because it assuages their lingering guilt over the Holocaust. Worst of all, they wish to appease a growing Muslim population which over time will replace their own infertile people. The Europeans, in short, are a race of cowards for whom truth does not exist if it is inconvenient.
Your trading partners in Asia all have substantial Muslim minorities and have no reason to rile them up by supporting you. Most of them privately hope that you will succeed, but will not say so.
The Russians believe that America needs you as an ally in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the president of the United States seeks to reduce rather than aggrandize America’s influence in the world; apart from his sentimental predilection for Islam, he is in principle against allies that strengthen America. Therefore the Russians will do everything in their power to wreck your relationship with Washington, the better to hurt America. If by chance you survive, they will be happy to buy your drones and sell you military aircraft.
My advice is to defend yourselves as you see fit. You only have to make sure to win. And remember: No good deed goes unpunished.
Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, senior editor of First Things (www.firstthings.com).